Aaron Sorkin can definitely write but can he direct?
Synopsis: MOLLY’S GAME is the true story of Molly Bloom a beautiful, young, Olympic-class skier who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game for a decade before being arrested in the middle of the night by 17 FBI agents wielding automatic weapons. Her players included Hollywood royalty, sports stars, business titans and finally, unbeknownst to her, the Russian mob. Her only ally was her criminal defense lawyer Charlie Jaffey, who learned that there was much more to Molly than the tabloids led us to believe. (eOne Films)
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, and Kevin Costner
Writer: Aaron Sorkin
Director: Aaron Sorkin
Rating: 14A (Canada)/R (United States)
Running Time: 140mins
For showtimes and more, check out on Molly’s Game movietimes.com.
On the surface, another Jessica Chastain led film where she plays a strong female character may seem similar to last year’s Miss Sloane where Chastain plays another strong female character. This time Chastain plays Molly Bloom, a woman arrested for allegedly running illegal poker games for the rich and powerful. Trying to clear her name, she turns to lawyer Charlie Jaffey (Elba) for assistance. As the story unfolded, we witness the evolution of Molly’s empire as well as its destruction, leaving Molly to pick up the pieces before it’s too late.
These two storylines are told concurrently with Bloom telling her story via narration, perhaps too much, from when her empire began until it crumbled and everything in between while trying to convince Jaffey to take her case. After a tragic skiing accident, Bloom was forced to reevaluate her career which led her to the poker world. Bloom was both an intelligent and driven individual who, seeing how much money she was making just fell deeper and deeper, gaining plenty of notoriety along the way. This notoriety began to work against her as the price of success and some dealings with the wrong people both led to her eventual downfall.
One of the best parts of the film was various poker sequences. For those not into poker, this may leave some bored, however, they were exciting to watch while well shot with the same fast pace as Sorkin’s trademark dialog. The many men at her table may be powerful but she stood tall alongside them, proving that she belonged and was very much in control. She could put on a tough face when she needed to though also showed a vulnerable side when need be, especially when facing a certain celebrity player known as Player X, played by the surprisingly scene-stealing Michael Cera.
Another great part of the film were the strong scenes between Bloom and Jaffey, despite lacking as many stakes as the past storyline. Bloom had to convince Jaffey to take the case but in order to do that, she would have to convince him that she was not the person the tabloids were making her out to be and was actually a good person in an impossible situation. While Bloom got most of the focus, Jaffey was still given a few opportunities to shine with one particular rant being the most noteworthy. Jaffey was also a father with parallels to Bloom’s own father, Larry (Costner). Bloom’s relationship with her father was a driving force for her, however, the story didn’t go far enough with it.
The film is long, clocking in at just under 2.5 hours, but the fast pace and the quick dialog more than make up for it. Sorkin not only did a better than average job at directing, taking a safe approach, his sharp script gave his actors enough ammunition to shine, however, it would not have worked as well if not for Chastain, Elba, and Costner. Chastain gave a very confident and commanding performance as Bloom, the smartest person in every room. Elba gave an equally great performance thanks to some excellent chemistry with Chastain. Costner did the most with a limited role though it would’ve been nice to see more of him.
Overall, this was a great drama and a better than average directorial debut by Aaron Sorkin that stumbles at the end and features commanding performances by Chastain, Elba, and Costner driven by another sharp script by Sorkin.
*Molly’s Game will be released in select cities on Christmas Day before releasing everywhere on January 5th*